Avalanche Center Home Update - April 15, 2010

An Update from the Avalanche Center

April 15, 2010
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  • New Education section feature
  • New Avalanche Institute course
  • Forums, Gallery, and Forum Dollars

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(To translate this update enter the URL "http://www.avalanche-center.org/Organization/updates/" and then follow the link on the translated page to this update. This way the entire page/update is translated.)

Updates have become pretty infrequent anymore, but it's not an indication that less work is being done on the project. A great deal of effort has been going into new resources for the past few years, primarily in the realm of education. These have not been very visible so far because, despite all the effort, they have not been ready for "prime time".

While a great deal of work has been going into these new resources we have continued investing the time and effort required to maintain the most important of our existing resources. This is becoming overwhelming for a site relying on donated time/labor and sparse contributions to pay the bills. As new resources become available we will be scaling back or eliminating some, but not all, of our traditional role. Details on what we will change and eliminate will be left for later however, and this update will focus very briefly on a couple new things that are available.

In addition to introducing a couple new educational resources this update will also continue the previous series of reviewing various sections of the website. In this issue we will briefly cover the forums and gallery, including "forum dollars" you can use for your membership, store purchases (up to 30% at this time), and online education.

If you support avalanche safety efforts in the non-profit sector remember that we need your help. Please consider a membership contribution or purchasing your equipment through our store. And tell your friends also.

Education Section - New "Current Quiz"

Get all five questions right and win a month of membership, plus a chance at a bigger prize!

We have just completed a new feature in the Education section - a current quiz (which will rotate periodically) that you can use to test your knowledge and win prizes. This is, in a way, a small spin-off from the new Avalanche Institute. The quiz formats and questions draw heavily on the courses there.

This feature requires you to have an email address registered and validated with us by being subscribed to the updates list. There is no cost, you just need to be on the list. If you are receiving this update by email the address it is sent to will work. You need to log in by entering your address, but no password is required. If you are not on our list then it is easy to subscribe and a link is provided. This system ensures that access to the quiz is by a real person who has some interest in taking it, and it allows us to contact you when you win something. (Our list is used exclusively to distribute these updates and is not shared with anyone else in any way.)

The first quiz, which is now available, has five questions and is taken from the Weather 1 module of the Avalanche Institute Level 1 course. It does not necessarily represent a complete quiz within the module, and every module has numerous quizzes throughout. So this is just a small subset and an example of one style of quiz used.

The prizes and criteria will change with each quiz, but right now everyone who gets 100% will get a free month of membership. Their address will also be added to a pool for additional prizes. These will be bigger and will result from continued success on subsequent quizzes, drawings, or both. If you take a quiz more than once only your first try will count, of course. Your email address will be used to notify you of any prize you win but there is no public listing of addresses and scores, so your results are confidential but not anonymous.

The duration of the current quiz has yet to be determined. It will depend on a number of factors. Try it out and see how you do! The URL for the quiz is http://www.avalanche-center.org/Education/quizes/current/ but this will take you to a login page to enter your email address.. There will also be links on the main Education page, the existing quizzes page in that section, and the scroller on the home page.

Avalanche Institute - New Climbers Awareness Course

The peak season for spring mountaineering incidents is probably mid-May to mid-June, so this course introduction is very timely right now.

The new course will cost half as much as the complete Level 1 course. However, it is FREE to anyone currently holding a Level 1 certification through our program. Furthermore, the cost of the climbers course can be applied towards the cost of a full Level 1 for up to one year after completion. When we first open it for registration we will provide a limited number of half price enrollments, while still allowing the full price to be applied to a Level 1. Details ...

Our Level 1 course has been available, although not widely promoted, for several years now. The details for this course and all of its components are posted in the institute and available from its home page. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and at the top of each module description page you can find select comments and ratings (all of which were unsolicited). Development of this has been a long and sometimes trying process, but it has also been quite enlightening at times. We have actually learned a great deal about how students learn in ways that never manifested themselves in a busy weekend format with a crowded curriculum that was inevitably too long for the time frame.

We now have (or will have within a week or so after some final effort) a Climbers Avalanche Awareness course. This is shorter than a full Level 1 course and focuses on spring conditions. While it is specifically for climbers it will also be useful for spring skiers. Parts of the course are a subset of the Level 1 course, but parts are unique for the season and audience.

Details are being posted in the same manner as the Level 1 details. There is a link from the institute home page, and each module has its own full page description with the details. Initially these were simply copied from the Level 1 pages and they are being updated as the course is finalized, so some of the information still reflects the objectives, etc, from the Level 1 version and not the climbers version. (One reason the course development process is somewhat slow and tedious is that all of this information for each module needs to be posted and to be identical to the version within the courseware for students. After the content is complete this module information needs to be reviewed again, and often revised a bit.)

This is not intended to be a certification course, nor are any modules intended to be prerequisites for advanced topics that will become available before long. The course is designed to be taken as a complete sequence from beginning to end. Therefore there is no option to register for individual modules, nor is there any challenge available to obtain credit for a module. While these options exist for the Level 1 modules there is no point to offering them on this course. There is also no official fieldwork for this course. Climbers inherently travel in avalanche terrain, they inherently have a long duration of exposure while ascending steep terrain, and they rarely have the option of obtaining much useful information on an approach. They (we) are goal oriented and generally choose a route before leaving home, then attempt to successfully complete it. Therefore the emphasis is on understanding spring conditions and using that understanding to choose suitable routes and plan safe climbs before leaving home.

When we are ready to open this for registration we will provide a limited number of half-price enrollments to the first people who sign up. (Those choosing to take a Level 1 course within a year of completing the climbing course will still be able to deduct its full value from the cost of that registration, an effective 25% discount.) Send us an email now if you want to be notified, we'll make the offer on a first-come first-serve basis to those who have expressed interest before opening any remaining discounted spots to the public. Make sure you're serious because you will probably have 24 hours or so to take advantage of the deal.

Finally, a bit of a disclaimer - As you may recall, we coined the term "Avalanche Institute" over four years ago specifically for this online program. We are not affiliated in any way with any other organization that has adopted the name since then, nor is any other such organization using our materials or our unique approach.

Forum and Gallery Section

This website section can be accessed by clicking on the icon on the home page, or the same icon on the navigation bar at the bottom of each section main page. It is also listed in the drop-down box at the top of these pages.

Our forums do not see much use, but there seems to be an inverse correlation these days between the quality of a forum and its activity level. The discussions and comments on our site are all relevant, and the forums are monitored for accuracy. We do not censor or moderate at all based on content, but will reply with explanations and references when its appropriate. The forums are, however, moderated for relevance. You will not find page after page of unrelated material. Except in the "Debris Field", which is where this is promptly moved to. (Many other forums which appear much more active would probably be closer in use to ours if all of this irrelevant stuff were moved or moderated.)

Along with the forums there is a gallery, also small with limited use. Photos can be posted, rated, and commented on.

These features both offer a bit extra to members. Members can access a few forums the public cannot, they can view full size photos in some galleries where non-members only see thumbnails, and they can create their own gallery if they choose to.

There is a feedback forum where we welcome comments and discussion on our site, features, directions, courses, etc. This includes criticism as long as it is constructive. The forums in general are probably the best place to discuss things like the avalanche institute and the courses there, as well as education in general. We do our best to reply to anything related to our work and will be glad to answer questions, comment on reasons for aspects of our work, etc.

Finally, one really good reason to participate in our forums is that you earn "forum dollars" for every post. (Unless its moderated, so don't post junk just for this reason! Although this has never yet been an issue.) You can use these for payment to the avalanche center for various things - membership, store orders up to 30%, and avalanche institute courses without limit, including discounted registrations. (Policies subject to change at any time, although no changes are currently anticipated.)

Coming Up

There are still some major sections to review. We have the Current Conditions section, which may be significantly downsized to free up time for the Institute and archiving incidents. We also have the full Education section, although it is already somewhat dwarfed by the Institute educational initiative. And our links section became more than just links in its last upgrade - it now includes articles, ratings, and comments.

We also need to continue with details, news and updates for the Level 1 course and the institute in general. While it has been mentioned more in recent updates we have only scratched the surface.

And as always, there is budget information. Nothing was included this time, and people do get tired of hearing about anyone elses budget. But without contributions and store sales much of what we continue to offer cannot be supported. We will include some updated budget information next time, but it's not a very good picture and as always we need your help.


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Jim Frankenfield
Executive Director

Avalanche Center Info